Turning Truck Driver Critically Injures Woman Biking on 1st Ave — Then NYPD Tickets Cyclists

The crash happened at the 9th Street "mixing zone," an intersection treatment known to be more dangerous than separating signal phases for cyclists and turning drivers.

Cyclists on First Avenue negotiate this "mixing zone" at 9th Street at the same time as left-turning motorists. Google Maps
Cyclists on First Avenue negotiate this "mixing zone" at 9th Street at the same time as left-turning motorists. Google Maps

A box truck driver turning left onto 9th Street critically injured a 31-year-old woman biking north on First Avenue this morning.

The victim was transported to Bellevue Hospital before 8 a.m. The driver remained at the scene and the investigation is ongoing, NYPD told Streetsblog. Their names have yet to be made public and no other details were available.

While the available information suggests the truck driver failed to yield to the cyclist, NYPD officers were seen on First Avenue ticketing cyclists this morning directly north of the crash scene:

First Avenue has a parking-protected bike lane, but at most intersections, cyclists and turning motorists proceed during the same signal phase through “mixing zones.”

Turning drivers are supposed to yield to cyclists at the mixing zone, but the treatment is not as safe as intersections where cyclists and turning drivers have separate signal phases. These “split-phase” signals have a demonstrably better safety record than mixing zones.

Typically, however, DOT limits dedicated signal phases for pedestrians and cyclists to major intersections, while smaller cross-streets like Ninth get mixing zones.

This morning’s crash occurred in the 9th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Rosie Mendez.

  • crazytrainmatt

    Split phases would pretty inconvenient given the frequency of intersections, but then so are mixing zones full of delivery trucks and turning vehicles. When I approach one of these, I have my eye on the traffic lane to my right and take the lane as soon as the parked cars disappear. This prevents drivers from overtaking and hooking you. But I haven’t found a safe way to get around cars already waiting in your path to turn left, other than entering the traffic lane briefly.

    I think the biggest step forward would be to replace the mixing zones with physically protected no-parking zones, up through the parking lane of the intersecting street but with a gap at the crosswalk (like the neckdown treatments DOT is applying). This forces turns from the traffic lane to occur at 90 degrees so the driver can clearly see oncoming bike traffic. I suppose this is something like a protected intersection. Cars will still block the bike lane but the angle would at least reduce the speed.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I handle them the same way. The split phases mean long waits at every light. Better to take the lane.

    The bottom line is people don’t know how to handle these situations, whether driving or riding bicycles. But lower speeds are the key to safety when turning regardless.

  • split phase must be implemented everywhere there’s a separated bike lane. period. it will be an inconvenience for drivers. but every inconvenience is another reason to change our mode mix to less cars/trucks and more alternative ways to deliver people and goods in our city.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    Would much prefer the DOT replaces the mixing zone with at least a Split LPI design as shown here:
    http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/01/26/will-nyc-dot-test-out-protected-intersections-in-2017/

    Signal is steady red, then flashing yellow for left-turning vehicles, but at least the bike lane continues right up to the crosswalk. However, there needs to be better protection in the “protected” lanes, in the form of planters and/or flexi-bollards, to prevent encroachment. If the bike lane went all the way to crosswalk, I’m pretty sure you can bulb that corner, forcing the vehicle to turn as sharply as possible.

    I don’t even trust the design of the regular split phases (ie: 14th St / 1st Av). For a protected lane, too easily a car can roll over that thin white line.

  • Reader

    Hey, Chief Chan, wanna know why cyclists go through red lights? This is why. It is often safer for a person who isn’t encased in two-tons of steel and glass to get as far away from trucks and cars as possible.

    Do your damn job and stop wasting time ticketing people for riding electric bicycles.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen
  • JudenChino

    This is so incredibly fucked up. This person who broke the law was the box truck driver taking a turn too quickly. Why the fuck aren’t the police cracking down on box truck drivers. Giving tix for running lights where one side of the street is roped off, is just insane. This is basic common sense. So disgusting. What a waste of resources. Doesn’t the NYPD realize that actions like this increase hostility towards the police and diminishes any respect that otherwise law abiding residents would have for them?

    Just all around a complete and total fuck up by the NYPD and honestly, people should be fired.

  • MatthewEH

    Yep. I merge across so that I’m actually on the right-hand side of the left turn pocket and hold it until I enter the intersection whenever possible. I also make a point of passing turning drivers to the right of their cars rather than left — most comfortable if there isn’t heavy traffic in the #1 through-lane, or if there’s no concrete divider at the intersection, just white paint.

    It’s a move that I tend to see faster and/or more-experienced-looking cyclists do, though. It doesn’t seem to be comfortable for everyone.

    The trouble with split-phases at every intersection is they impoverish the amount of crossing time cyclists get, and cyclists then train themselves to ignore a red bicycle signal if the left-turn arrow is green. Which is actually sorta okay if there isn’t actually anyone coming, but it ingrains a bad default behavior in some riders.

    How’s this for a compromise solution: mandate that trucks may not use these mixing zones. They do not have the visibility to appropriately register the presence of oncoming/alongside cyclists who they need to yield to, they take forever to clear the intersection, their rear wheels track surprisingly far left, and they injure more severely in the event of a crash. Want to make a left off one of these avenues in a truck? Well, two wrongs don’t make a right, but 3 rights make a left.

    If the left would keep trucks on a designated truck route, then change the treatment so that there is a split-phase there.

    You could even enforce this with infrastructure: something hanging down above the turn lane that would smack into the windshield or roof of a vehicle that’s disallowably tall.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I don’t find split phases that bad today on the few sections of bike lane that have them (the oldest, widest sections on 8th and 9th Avenues). The mixing zones are far worse, and often require you to stop completely with a green light when a driver is yielding to pedestrians and another is waiting behind them. That’s not to mention the real, proven danger of the mixing zones compared to split phase.

    The mixing zones don’t exist for cycling convenience, they exist for traffic circulation.

  • Geck

    I agree on all counts.

  • qrt145

    “The mixing zones don’t exist for cycling convenience, they exist for traffic circulation.”

    Cyclists are traffic too, and traffic circulation is convenient when you are on a bike. I don’t deny the possibility that mixing zones might be less safe than split phase, but they sure feel more convenient to me as a cyclist, assuming that I wish to stay within the confines of the law. In practice, I treat a green turn arrow the same way I would a mixing zone: I mix into traffic and proceed through the intersection. But that’s illegal because the bike light is red at the time.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I meant auto traffic (obviously?). NYC is way behind on magnetic detection and improving light timing. To the extent that left turning cars have too long of a phase at the split phase intersections, it’s because the phase is mostly empty a lot of the time. It’s not demand responsive.

    I also tend to merge into the left turn lane to go straight, though I stopped doing it on Allen Street after somebody called me an asshole for doing it and I ended up making a left turn to justify calling him an asshole back… However, if you can just do this like it’s a mixing zone, why insist on the dangerous mixing zones? Solely to avoid the (small) chance of a red light ticket?

  • HamTech87

    I use lights with magnetic detection in Westchester. (Is it magnetic?) It is activated when a heavy motor vehicle rolls over it. I don’t think it is activated when a bicycle does.

  • HamTech87

    That’s interesting, but I find cars just as awful in mixing zones. I refer to them as “bullying zones” where the bigger vehicle gets priority.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Agree on most of this but I think it’s exceptionally unlikely they’re going to ban particular vehicles from using the zones and NYPD would not enforce it until after the fact when there is a crash.

    One idea would be to go split phase but get rid of a every other left turn altogether, so there would only be a turn lane every 800 feet rather than 400 feet today. Make everybody make 3 rights, or tae the next available left and take the next avenue the other way, etc. They already ban some turns off of lot of crosstown streets for the benefit of auto traffic flow (“Thru Streets”).

  • sophocles

    well said & interesting points

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    A lot of detection loops can detect bikes. Sometimes you need to be at a specific spot. In some places they mark this spot with a little bike icon with vertical lines above and below it.

  • Vooch

    I use a massive (375 lumen) blinkee front light during day.

    It’s saved me from many a left hook & dooring.

    Also use a rear blinkee on my ( white ) helmet during daytime. The white helmet reflects the red blinkee

  • Vooch

    until NYPD gets out of their cars and walks a beat, they will continue to see everything through a suburban windshield perspective

  • Vooch

    Humans are traffic too

  • Seekerrr

    It is called capitalism, live with it. Government driven by profit, Police job is to make that profit for the government through tickets, bonds, confiscated goods, and a whole lot of other laws that are designed specifically to squeeze every cent from the Sheep of a people.

    I guess you didn’t realize what was happening when they were taxing you for literally everything. The only thing they haven’t taxed yet, is the air.. but don’t worry, that will happen very soon. Good luck.

  • Simon Phearson

    This is precisely my problem with the DOT’s split-phases on First, and with this blog’s mindless praise of any split-phase. The split-phases on First at 57th and 59th are so time-consuming and so within-a-hair’s-breadth-of-traffic that I’ve changed my route to go along Park in midtown. I won’t chance it with these any more, if I can help it.

  • Elizabeth F

    There are only three solutions to this problem: (a) Educate drivers, (b) Educate bikers, (c) Implement split phase signals everywhere. (a) and (b) probably aren’t practical, so we need to go with (c).

    One cheap fix for existing mixing zones would be to change the green arrow to a yellow arrow. And put a stop sign there too. This might actually make a difference. Or invent a ubiquitous “watch for bikers” sign and hang it at every mixing zone.

    I don’t think that arresting motorists in these situations will do much more than send more people to the court systems. The design is flawed, and needs to be fixed.

  • JudenChino

    They could make more “profit” by ticketing cars and trucks. But they don’t do that. Your comment is incoherent and isn’t actually responsive to the facts on hand.

  • david

    Again, I was most impressed in LA when cars stop and wait for those walking across the street, the police need to ticket cars that don’t stop or yield. I’m ok with ticketing bikers as well.

  • Seekerrr

    They are already giving tickets to car, truck and bus drivers, and taxing them in every way possible, from registration, to petrol, to road tolls, parking tickets, speed tickets…

    There is an up trend in use of bikes, this is something new, and the capitalists are tapping in to it, which makes sense in the overall scheme of things.

  • JudenChino

    What’s wrong with taxing petrol and road tolls? That’s not capitalism. That’s paying for what you use. Same with parking and speeding tix. Don’t speed. Don’t illegally park. There’s nothing “capitalist” about that. Nor is there anything Capitalist about parking minimums which distorts the so called free market and requires builders to build parking spots in lieu of housing.

  • MIchael Dee

    That bike lane is a death trap, I take my chances in the bus lane.

  • Seekerrr

    I didn’t mention right and wrong, I just explained (from my understanding) what the issue is, and why they’re going after bikes. You can disagree.